Andy put his arms around Ann. “Talk to me.”
“What?” Ann asked, confused.
“There’s been something you’ve been wanting to talk to me about all day. What is it?”
She sighed and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“If it’s bothering you this much, it does. Ann, you know you can tell me anything.” He kissed her. She kissed him back deeply trying to distract him.
He pulled away. “Annlonna, talk to me.”
“I want to have another baby,” she said softly.
Andy smiled and held her close. “We will.”
“No, I mean now. I want to start trying tonight.”
“I know what you mean, and you know we need to wait until Cari comes into her magic and make sure she’s truly okay.
“Cari started school early and is doing well. She isn’t having any problems. Once her magic starts, we’ll know for sure.”
“I know but…”
“Ann, I understand. I’d love to have another baby too. But look at the problems you and Tercala both have. We need to make sure Cari doesn’t have them too.”
“I know,” Ann sighed. She looked at her hands. The whiteness of her skin was a visible reminder of her troubles. “That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
She felt so defeated that it broke Andy’s heart. Hooking a finger under her chin, he tipped her head up to look at him.
“We will have another child or two. Don’t worry. If Cari did inherit your problems, we’ll adopt,” he promised.
What Andy said was nothing new. They’d discussed it before. Ann was part immortal and part dragon. Because she was only a small fraction immortal, she hadn’t suffered the loss of control most crossbreeds had. But she had problems, and they didn’t know how much was genetic and how much was environmental. As a child, she’d run away from home and been captured by Lyra and the trolls. She’d been forced to do unspeakable things. To cope, she developed a second personality, Drepal. Drepal was the personification of Ann’s darker half. She saw herself as Ann’s protector so when she was a prisoner, she had done whatever terrible things Lyra had wanted. Now she worked to obey the law for Ann and her family’s sake.
Tercala was the result of an experiment between Mishtali and an unknown Ertonian woman. He’d been taken from his mother at birth and raised by Cramda. He was kept in isolation and abused. He’d never known kindness. He’d been lied to and neglected.
When he first came to Menthanla, he’d been part of an attack on the palace. He was captured by those he thought were the enemy. He was scared, confused, and short-tempered. He was prone to outbursts. Working with Jo, he was improving.
Ann and Andy were concerned that their daughter Carina would have the same temperament problems her mother and uncle did. So far, she had shown no sign of it.
Both Ann and Tercala had nightmares for as long as they could remember. Cari didn’t, so they were optimistic. There was every indication she’d be as strong of a mage as Ann was and there was speculation she’d be an Augmenter too.
She was almost four so it was too soon to tell anything for certain. Once her magic started in a few years, if she had any problems, they would know then. Until then, they had to wait for another child. It was difficult when all their friends were having children.
“I’ll tell you what,” Andy suggested. “For now, how about we just offer to babysit a lot. No middle of the night feedings.” He smiled.
“I don’t mind those,” Ann said. She only slept a few hours each night anyhow.
Andy could feel she liked the idea of watching the new baby.
“There’s time before dinner. We can also practice having one.” He pulled her close and kissed her.
She smiled. “I like the sound of that.” She kissed him back.
“Ruzi, are you still outside?” Thailyn called out the door. The boy had said he was going to lay in the hammock and read, but it had been dark for an hour.
“Yes,” Ruzi called back. It sounded like he was still there in the hammock, or possibly up in one of the trees it hung from.
“Is Lamdi with you?” That would explain why he was still out there.
“Yes. We’re looking at the stars.”
“Uh-huh,” Thailyn muttered. “It’s time for you to come in.”
“Okay. Let me walk Lamdi home.”
“Walk her home? She lives next door.” The boy was looking for an excuse to spend more time with her.
“It’s dark. I can’t see that far,” was Ruzi’s response.
That could be true. He had enough problems with his eyes. “Just hurry up. And don’t let Pt’this catch you.”
Moments later, the boy was back.
“You two need a chaperone. No more out in the hammock with Lamdi after dark.”
“We aren’t doing anything.”
“Why don’t I believe that?”
“What about you and Minx?”
“Minx is an adult.”
“She’s also married to someone else.”
“She’s a dwarf. Things are different. I’m not having an affair with her. We’re talking about you. Darkham won’t skin me. Pt’this will skin us both.”
“We’re not going to do anything.”
“And a chaperone will make sure of that.”
“No more out in the hammock after dark unless you have an adult with you, or I’ll take it down.”
Ruzi nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Ruzi, I just don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“I know. I’m not going to make the same mistake my parents did.”
“My parents should’ve never had me. They shouldn’t have even been together. They broke the law. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to have any kids. And I’m not going to sleep with anyone.”
Thailyn’s heart broke to hear his son talk like that. Adopting Ruzi had protected him from the law banning half-elves, but living in fear and hiding as long as he had, had taken a toll on the boy.
“You’re not an Erulian citizen. You’re Menthanlan. You’re not subject to Erilu’s laws. You can marry and you can have kids, legally. Well, you can once you’re an adult.”
Ruzi shook his head. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.”
“But that’s my point. They won’t have to. Laws have changed since you were born. And Deyama’s trying to get more of them changed.
“Ruzi, staying single can be lonely. Some people don’t mind but most would rather be with someone.”
“I’d ask what you are, but the way you are with Minx, it’s obvious.”
“We kiss occasionally. She claims it’s therapy to keep me from despair. I need an unreadable. You know that. Lamdi is lucky to have found you. I was over 1000 years old before I met one.”
Thailyn nodded. “I tried to have a relationship with a woman that wasn’t an unreadable. I don’t think it would’ve worked if I’d stayed on Tricon.
“But I’m okay alone, despite what Minx thinks. I have you, Ann, and plenty of friends. My extended family has grown plenty too.”
Ruzi nodded. He understood that. With his adoption by Thailyn, he’d ended up with a huge family. For a while, it had just been his mom and him. He had no idea who his birth father was or what happened to him. All he knew was the man was human and it was against Elven law for his mom to be involved with a human or to have a child with one. When Ruzi was born, she hid him for as long as she could. If he were found, they’d both be killed. When she had to go back to Erilu, she cut his ears and put a potion in his eyes to make him look human. She was supposed to return in a few weeks, but she never did. He’d been told she’d been hurt and couldn’t return. He’d lived on his own for five years, hiding from pretty much everyone.
Then he got sick and was caught. He was taken to the home for runaway and abandoned children. He was healed, cared for, and later adopted by Thailyn.
The adoption was for his protection, but he’d grown close to the dragon, and he loved him as he might a father. And he knew his dad loved him too. Ruzi also cared for his big sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and the other family dragons called shepol.
He was finally able to have friends and he went to school and took classes at the wizard’s college so he could use his magic.
He wasn’t going to end things with Lamdi, not yet. He really liked her. He also wasn’t going to push the relationship. There was the chance that they’d run into an elf that didn’t care about Menthanlan law. And she was only thirteen. Thailyn was right. Pt’this would skin him and Ti would help. Chormi probably would too.
“I’m going to bed. I was getting tired out there,” he told Thailyn.
“How are your eyes?” Thailyn asked. The potion used on his eyes had been left in too long, and it damaged them. Without frequent healing, he’d go blind.
“They seem okay to me. Do you want to check?” He reached out a hand. Thailyn took the offered hand and nodded.
“Not bad. Good night.”
“Good night, Dad.”